No country for happy women

I missed a lot of good laughter while I was in China. I was on a train from Shang Hai to Beijing when I read that Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç had stated women should not laugh in public.

Turkish women who shared their photos laughing in social media, in protest, were joined by international celebrities. Leaving the medieval backwardness of his mentality aside, which fellow Hürriyet Daily News columnist Güven Sak explained so well in his latest column, I have to side with Arınç on this one on a technicality: Turkish women should not laugh at all, as Turkey is no country for happy women.

For starters, there is quite a bit of gender-based inequality and poverty in Turkey. A research note by Istanbul think tank Betam I carried over to my column in March shows poverty is more widespread in households headed by women. Not only more than 60 percent of women household heads are not in the labor force, the ones who are earn less than their male counterparts in similar positions.

Disparity is not limited to the labor market. Turkey ranks 69th in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index (HDI), a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income. As if this result were not dismal enough, the country is 118th in Gender-based Development Index, which accounts for gender gaps in the three components of the HDI.

Similarly, Turkey ranks 120th out of 136 countries in World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2013 Report, which “benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health-based criteria.” But hey, the country was 122nd out of 135 countries when I mentioned the report in my annual International Women’s Day column in 2012, so...

Continue reading on: